Foodborne illnesses frequently arise from poor food preparation. The CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.
How can foodborne illness be avoided?
- Don’t leave food out. Microbes thrive on virtually all food items, and more so on foods left at room temperature.
- Promptly refrigerate foods within 2 hours of preparation. Refrigeration slows or stops the growth of most microbes.
- Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and vegetables.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables prior to eating.
- Keep your countertops clean.
What are the symptoms of a foodborne illness?
The most common symptoms of foodborne illness are fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal bloating or cramping, and muscle aches. A common belief is that the illness is caused by the most recent foods or meal consumed. This can be a misconception; symptoms usually appear 12-72 hours after eating contaminated food.
When choosing restaurants, look for basic clues as to the cleanliness of the facility and the freshness of the food. Reduce your risk of foodborne illnesses by checking cleanliness ratings, choosing places that look clean, asking how food is prepared, and avoiding foods that sit out in conditions other than proper temperatures. Freshly-cooked, hot-served foods are safer than foods that have been left unrefrigerated in a kitchen or on a buffet table. Are you taking home leftovers? Refrigerate and then eat them within a day or two.